COVID-19 Information: Brown University continues to closely monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic locally, nationally and around the world. After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all residential on-campus and off-campus Pre-College Programs for Summer 2020. We will continue to offer online courses. Please visit the Pre-College COVID-19 web page for additional information.

Environmental Leadership: Alaska

Cultural preservation, economic growth, and environmental choices

This program is cancelled. Please go to the Summer@Brown Online program page for information about that program and related courses.

The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies, ecology, and leadership, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. At BELL, students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to create positive change on environmental issues facing their local communities and the planet as a whole.

This summer, students at BELL Alaska will travel to south-central Alaska to be introduced to the beauty and complexities of present-day Alaska.

Over the course of two weeks, students will explore issues Alaskans face in balancing cultural and environmental preservation with economic growth. Learning will be fast-paced, experiential, and include diverse perspectives.

Areas of Focus:

  • Alaska Native history and cultural preservation
  • Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems
  • Climate change's impact on culture, economics, and the environment
  • Socially-responsible leadership

Create an Action Plan and Take the Learning Home

Socially responsible leadership is a lifelong pursuit that requires ongoing learning and reflection. During BELL: Alaska, students will identify a pressing issue that they are passionate about. With support from faculty and peers, students will create an Action Plan to apply their new leadership knowledge to this issue upon return to their home community.

We encourage students to think about potential Action Plan topics before they come to BELL, but most develop their ideas during the program. For example, past students have established community gardens, written a grant to install solar panels, and coordinated an e-waste collection. More Action Plan final reports can be found here: BELL Action Plan library.

Learn for the sake of learning

The BELL Programs provide challenging academic opportunities without the pressure of formal grades, allowing students to concentrate on learning, and the process of scholarship and discovery. In lieu of a final grade, students will receive a Course Performance Report and Certificate of Completion after successful completion of the program.

2020 Program Dates

July 19 - August 1


For students completing grades 9-12, ages 15-18 by June 2020

Information Sessions

magnifying glass Courses

Tidepooling in the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies on Peterson Bay
Alaskan Coastal Studies on Peterson Bay

Life at BELL: Alaska

Life Outdoors

A large amount of time will be spent outdoors. Students will explore some spectacular landscapes through formal study and by spending time listening and observing. Students can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day, and should be ready to get dirty as they will be out and about, rain or shine.


Most nights, students will be sleeping on bunk beds in college dorm rooms separated by gender identity. For the three evenings at the Peterson Bay Field Station, students will be sleeping in yurts without running water or electricity. However, there is a permanent lodge visible from the yurts with composting toilets, meeting spaces, and a fully-functioning kitchen.

Program staff live on-site and are available to students 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.


Students will be getting food from a variety of places. Most meals will be prepared and eaten in a college dining hall or residence hall. Some meals will be prepared collaboratively by students and staff.
Note: All food is ordered in advance, so program staff must be notified of any dietary restrictions or allergies by April 15.

Unplugging from Devices

Students at BELL are expected to reduce their cell phone use, allowing them to fully engage with the community and beautiful surroundings. By breaking ties to these technologies, students are able to be more mindful of the natural environment and build more intentional friendships.

Program Fee includes:

  • Tuition for the course
  • Textbooks and classroom supplies
  • All lodging as part of the course
  • Breakfasts, lunches, dinners
  • All transportation, field trips and site visits as described in the program description
  • Transfer from/to airport on day of arrival and departure

Not included in Program Fee:

  • Air travel to/from Anchorage, AK
  • Pre/post-program accommodations
  • Additional spending money
BELL students had the opportunity to try muktuk (bowhead whale) with one of the Elders from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
In this photo, taken by a BELL 2019 student, students explore Matanuska Glacier.

A Typical Day

There is no typical day in BELL: Alaska. The diversity of places and lessons require flexibility in the schedule. However, most days will start early and be packed full of activities, including field observation, educational discussions and panels, and time for team-building, recreation, and reflection. The two weeks of BELL: Alaska are divided into three distinct segments:


Students will have the unique opportunity to learn Alaskan history from an Alaska Native perspective. Alaska became a US state in 1959 but its history stretches back centuries and includes a minimum of eight native cultural groups. Alaska Native elders and teens from Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) will provide insights to cultural traditions and historical milestones that are rarely found in mainstream history books.

Peterson Bay by Boat

At the end of the first week, students will travel south, down the Kenai Peninsula and take a boat across Kachemak Bay to spend two nights at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies’ Peterson Bay Field Station. This remote science center is nestled in coastal woodlands accessible only by boat, and provides access to incredible biodiversity.

The Kenai Peninsula

Back on the mainland, students will spend time in Soldotna at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus, a unit of the University of Alaska. This area is best known for salmon fishing so students will see salmon in the wild and consider its long-time economic and cultural value.

Here's an example of a potential day:

7:15am Breakfast
8:15am “The Salmon Life Cycle” presentation
12:00pm Depart for afternoon hike, bring boxed lunch
1:00pm Hike to native fishing site and waterfall, meet state regulators
4:00pm Return to university
6:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Leadership workshop
9:00pm Free time
10:00pm Well-deserved rest

Staying Safe and Comfortable in the Field

The summer weather in Alaska can vary. Please check the weather forecast for the two regions of Alaska we will be in before departure and pack accordingly. Most hiking locations will be near a body of water, so it is encouraged to bring shoes that can get muddy and wet. Students should bring clothing and gear that they are willing to get wet and dirty while we are doing field work.

About the Program Director: Jane B. Diener

Assistant Director, Environmental and Location-Based Programs

Jane received her B.S. in Forest Resources, Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching, and Ph.D. in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia (UGA). Prior to joining the Brown Pre-College team in September 2017, Jane worked as the Sustainability Coordinator for University Housing at UGA, where she ran educational programs to promote environmentally conscious decisions among the 8,000 students living on campus. During the summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016, Jane worked part time for the BELL: Rhode Island. In her current role with Brown Pre-College Programs, she is responsible for planning and overseeing all BELL programs, including Alaska, Florida Keys, and Rhode Island. Jane is passionate about environmental advocacy and fulfilled by this role, which allows her to facilitate a unique experience for high school students each summer.

picture of forest in Alaska
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